Impact of Coronavirus on Medical Negligence Claims
We are in unchartered territory and we are all affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. Those pursuing medical negligence claims and those who may have complaints will wonder how they will continue to get justice when they are also facing a moral dilemma as to whether or not to continue with their complaint as they really do not wish to blame those on the front line.
I can well understand that moral dilemma and it is absolutely true that so many front line health professionals both in the NHS and in the social care sector are doing a sterling service of us all. That said, when a grave mistake happens which results in an injury that would not have happened but for the act or omission of those in charge of their care then this does not stop access to justice.
Some key points to note-
Where there is a claim it is important to remember the law allows the Claimant three years from the date of the negligence for personal injury and clinical negligence claims in England and Wales. This is known as ‘limitation’. This means that a claim should be brought i.e. settled or Court proceedings must be issued within three years of the negligence or date of knowledge of the negligence, otherwise the claim will be out of time.
Sometimes a patient will not know that an error in their treatment was made until after some time, in which case, limitation runs from the ‘date of knowledge’. This being the date the patient first became aware the medical negligence.
These time limits are not suspended due to the Coronavirus. It is important to be aware of this.
There are exceptions to the limitation rule.
- For children, the three year limitation runs from their 18th birthday.
- If you are acting on behalf of the deceased loved one then limitation runs from the date of death so long as limitation period had not expired during their life time.
Complaints against the healthcare profession
The NHS England, hospital Trusts, and G.P. and dental practices have due to the present unusual situation, suspended their complaints investigation as they are required to attend to more pressing matters such as patient health care so this is likely to have a bearing on existing and new complaints. However, for those with complaints against the NHS, it is still important for patients to exercise their right if they have a legitimate complaint, to submit their complaint in writing to the relevant Health Trust within 12 months of the negligence or date of knowledge.
In the same way, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman are also not currently accepting new complaints and any existing complaints have been put on pause.
The current pause will continue until the end of June 2020 and it may well be extended if necessary. This will inevitably cause a backlog of outstanding complaints and there will be a delay in patients receiving replies to their concerns.
More information can be found at www.england.nhs.uk/complaints
Existing medical negligence claims
There has been an impact in the way these cases are progressed due to some medical experts being on Covid 19 duty which means defendants may not be able to respond in a timely manner. Courts are continuing to operate remotely and lawyers too are working remotely. Modern technology and video conferencing allows that however, medical examinations of patients have been put on hold for the time being. It needs to be noted that most of the clinical negligence claims rarely end up in Court.
Can you get legal advice?
Yes, most definitely. We are continuing to progress our clients cases in the way we did before. We deal with a wide range of clinical negligence cases such as delayed diagnosis or missed diagnoses of fractures, cancers, fatal claims, brain injuries and other serious injury claims. If you or your loved one is affected and are in need of legal advice please do not hesitate to get in touch for a free and informal consultation. You can contact us by telephone on 0330 107 0107 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you contact me directly by email at email@example.com
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.
Published by: Daxa Patel
Partner & Solicitor
IMD Solicitors LLP